Meitei couple ignored advice to return to safer area before their murder: Police
According to photographs that emerged on Monday after the state reinstated mobile internet, the couple seemed to have been murdered as the civil war-like situation continued to roil Manipur
The Meitei couple seemingly killed on July 6 after eloping ignored advice to return to their area before they ended up in a Kuki-controlled village in the ethnic violence-hit Manipur and were murdered. Armed Kuki militants passing by the village spotted the couple, abducted them in a vehicle, and took them to an unknown destination before executing them, according to the Manipur Police report on the killings.
According to photographs that emerged late on Monday after the state reinstated mobile internet, the couple seemed to have been murdered as the five-month-long civil war-like situation continued to roil Manipur. HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the photographs.
The report said a group of Kuki village volunteers in Joupi village asked the couple to return to their area before they were abducted.
The Manipur Police’s preliminary probe found Hemanjit Singh and the 17-year-old girl he was in a relationship with eloped on July 6. They were spotted at a stone quarry near Laika before reaching Jouzangtek. Around 8am, Singh picked up the girl from her tuition centre at Keishampat Mutum Leikhai in Imphal.
Police filed a case of abduction against Singh based on the complaint of the girl’s father, who said his daughter was forced into marriage against her wishes. The report said the two left on a motorbike and were taking selfies near the stone quarry.
According to CCTV footage from cameras installed outside a house in Bishnupur Awang, the two on the motorcycle passed by Old Cachar Road from the direction of the Bishnupur forest gate at 9:12 am.
Police citing sources said Singh and the girl were spotted near the quarry before they were kidnapped. In their report, police quote sources saying the two were murdered on July 8 (Singh) and July 11 (the girl)
The report, which has been submitted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that is now probing the case, said the bodies of the two were buried at a place called Lukhrabi Yumpham. Police said they were unable to go there because of “the law and order” situation in the state.
The report cited an agreement with the central government and said the places of abduction and areas of operation of the alleged accused were not accessible to the State Investigating Agency due to the heavy presence of the armed Kuki militants. “State Investigating Agency is handicapped in carrying out the investigation of the case,” the report said.
Central forces have been posted in the buffer zones or areas adjoining the foothills to ensure that armed people from both the Kukis and Meitei sides do not cross them to launch attacks. They have been directed against allowing even state police to cross the buffer zones without taking them along. The directive was issued amid allegations of bias against the state police.
The report said the investigation of such a complicated case requires a highly trained and resourceful investigating agency such as CBI which has access to all areas and can book and prosecute offenders.
The last cellphone location of the couple was traced to Lamdan of the Churachandpur district. The police found a day after the two went missing, a new SIM card was activated in the man’s mobile phone at Lamdan, a Kuki-dominated area, on July 7.
Two days after the state government restored internet services, photos of the couple surfaced on social media on September 25. One showed them sitting on the ground in what appears to be a forest with two armed men in the background, and another showed them apparently lying dead on the ground. The man’s head appears to be missing in the photograph and the girl’s face is invisible.
The two were wearing the same clothes as seen in the first photograph. Their faces are invisible in the second photograph.
On Tuesday, school students held protests in Imphal against the killing and abduction, and police resorted to firing tear gas shells. At least 25 students sustained injuries. The state government announced the closure of all schools until September 29.